The 2019 Washington state legislative session ended this week, and it was the first time Democrats controlled the entire budget-writing process since 2011. How did that work out?
Despite having revenue increases of nearly ten percent, the legislature increased spending by roughly twenty percent. Tax increases were primarily targeted at undesirable entities or actions in the eyes of legislative leaders. In addition, lawmakers created some new specific revenue schemes for specific government activities outside of the usual budget process. Finally, favors were provided for select entities like union operators, the hockey arena, and sellers of green transportation products and services.
Revenue is up within existing taxes.
2017-19 biennium $46.1 billion
2019-21 biennium $50.5 billion, 9.6 percenthigher than expected 2017-19 revenue
Spending is way up.
2017-19 biennium $43.2 billion (boosted to $44.8 in supplemental budgets).
2019-21 biennium $52.0 billion, 18 percent higher than the budget which finishes in June 2019.
New tax increases permit state budgeted spending to increase nearly 20 percent
E2SHB 2158 imposes a business tax on targeted firms like Microsoft and Amazon: $380 million
ESSB 5998 imposes a higher real estate excise tax on high-dollar real estate sales: $244 million
SHB 2167 imposes a higher business-and-occupation tax on targeted financial firms: $133 million
SSB 5581 imposes sales tax on more online sellers out-of-state: $115 million
ESB 6016 imposes higher business-and-occupation taxes on targeted International Investment Management Services businesses: $59 million
ESSB 5997 ends the automatic sales tax exemption for nonresidents: $54 million
ESSB 6004 imposes a higher business-and-occupation tax on targeted tourism firms: $5 million
Tax breaks for targeted firms or activities
Taxes passed to fund other spending increases
Legislative leadership seems to favor keeping money outside of the normal budgeting process by levying specific revenue schemes to fund specific government activities. This practice fractures the natural prioritization that should be happening in the budgeting process. It also decreases the transparency of government spending. As a result, important priorities potentially could be starved of resources while designated funding activities are flush with cash and spending wastefully.
ESSB 5993 increases taxes on petroleum products to fund government activities related to toxics: $165 million.
2SHB 1087 imposes a 0.58 percent payroll tax to fund a state-run long-term care benefit program: $1.3billionin 2021-23
Paying back union donors
SHB 1195 Practically ends an individual’s ability to seek the enforcement of campaign finance laws. The Freedom Foundation has prompted many enforcement actions and penalties against union bad actors.
SHB 5297 Allows union operatives to organize to collect dues from assistant attorneys general.